Best National Parks in Indonesia

September 6th, 2019

The natural splendor of Indonesia offers a stunning paradise for locals and visitors in a tropical setting spread across 17,000 different islands. The dynamic diversity of the scenery captures the vibrant beauty of the flora and fauna that straddles the equator and travels across parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans where you can climb volcanic peaks flush with emerald jungle or dive into crystal-clear azure waters to find radiant marine life. Discover orangutans foraging in pristine forests and the legendary island of Komodo which supports the world’s rarest lizard species, the wild Komodo dragons. The grandeur of Indonesia spans more than 733,500 square miles boasting over 52 national parks that highlight the abundant resources scattered across the archipelago.

Whether searching for unique wildlife or interested in venturing deep into the tropical rainforests, eager to travel along the thousands of miles of coastline or wade through pristine mangrove forests, the national parks of Indonesia possess distinct untamed beauty that reflect the marvels of rare blossoming Javanese Edelweiss or highlighting the conservation efforts for the Sumatran tiger. When visiting Indonesia, the following list offers insight into a number of the best national parks across the islands offering a remarkable perspective on the bountiful natural wonders you can experience when traveling the island chain.

1. Teluk Cenderawasih National Park

The rare and docile whale shark 

Teluk Cenderawasih National Park represents Indonesia’s largest protected marine habitat spreading across more than 3.59 million acres and located along the western section of the Cenderawasih Gulf along the northern edge of Papua island. The warm, tropical crystal-clear waters shimmer with 150 different species of coral which create stunning mounds, mountains, and islands that support 36 types of birds, and 209 species of fish-attracting marine life such as green, scale, and cracked turtles, as well as dolphins and sharks including the elusive, majestic whale shark.

Teluk Cenderawasih embodies the epic scale of a national park in Indonesia both in size and spectacle allowing visitors to snorkel above the wavering tendrils of soft coral or scuba dive into the depths of the bay to swim close to the magnificent whale sharks, a number of which are known to live in the national park’s waters year-round. The diversity of the park also allows you to dip your toes into the steaming waters of natural hot springs, plunge into whitewater of a splashing waterfall, or enjoy the colorful plumage of the avifauna scattered across the three main islands. All lay within the protected borders, ideal for a birdwatching excursion with the exceptional feathers of yellow-crested cockatoos and green parrots juxtaposing the vibrant scales of parrotfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish.

2. Komodo National Park

Aerial shot of Komodo National Park, home of Indonesia's famous Komodo dragon

Komodo National Park has become one of Indonesia’s most famous conservation areas attracting visitors from around the world eager to view the largest lizard on the planet, the Komodo dragon, which can grow larger than 10 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. The island itself has a sunbaked and barren landscape that contrasts the vibrant, lush, tropical ambiance for which the archipelago is famous. Visitors arriving at the main camp of Loh Liang are often greeted immediately with images of the Komodo dragons lounging or lumbering on the beach allowing the warm sunlight to help regulate their body temperatures.

The ancient and rare lizard species often draws comparisons to the last known dinosaurs on earth while the greater borders of Komodo National Park spread beyond the coastline to include the shores of Padar and Rinca islands, where the Komodo dragons can also be found. The abundance of biodiversity within Komodo National Park stems from the star attraction of the resident dragons to also include stunning images of Timor deer, sea turtles, dolphins, rare dugongs, and thriving corals which are home to more than 1,000 tropical fish, making the beaches and snorkeling activities on the islands as popular as walking wildlife safaris in search of the renowned Komodo dragons.

3. Bunaken National Marine Park

Bunaken National Marine Park's bustling ecosystem 

The biodiversity found in Bunaken National Marine Park overtakes one of densest areas of sea life on the planet showcasing the fabulous thriving coral ecosystem that spans over 343 square miles. The impressive population of coral and mollusks shimmer among the marvelous water visibility offering superb diving and snorkeling spots that capture vertical coral and active sponges at varying depths of the sea. The protected seascape leads into the majestic landscapes of islands within the borders of the national park that boast coconut and palm trees as well as captivating wildlife such as macaque, grazing wild deer, and wandering bear cuscus. The blend of grandeur from the land and sea not only showcases the brilliant possibilities of visiting the national park, from lounging on pristine soft sands to viewing wildlife both in and out of the water but also represents the abundance of natural wonders found in greater Indonesia.

4. Tanjung Putting National Park

One of the many species in Tanjung Putting National Park, the orangutan 

The massive borders of Tanjung Putting National Park spread across 1,602 square miles of the Kalimantan region along the southern edges of Borneo which is known for the waters of the Sungai Sekoneyer River and wild orangutans. Stellar birdlife fills the trees and rushes along the underbrush leading to the riverbanks consisting of vibrant avifauna such as kingfishers and regal hornbills darting across the waters. Other wildlife within the diverse ecosystems of mangroves, swamps, and tropical forests include species like pythons lingering in the trees and bearded pigs foraging among the underbrush next to the coast.

The perimeters of the park include research centers and conservation facilities that protect and study the critically endangered orangutan population. The best-known conservation center for orangutans is the Tanjung Harapan, which cares for orphaned infants and new arrivals. The best possible viewing opportunities occur along the river at sunrise when much of the wildlife, especially the active orangutans, begin their daily foraging alongside wildlife like mudskippers and archerfish, crocodiles and pythons.

5. Kerinci Seblat National Park
The ominous, smokey crater of Mount Kerinci 

The natural beauty of Kerinci Seblat National Park spreads across four provinces on the island of Sumatra featuring impressive heights ranging from the world’s tallest flower to Indonesia’s second-largest volcanic peak of Mount Kerinci which stands 12,484 feet above sea level. The peculiar species within conserved landscape are particular to the tropical wilderness of the island that consists of more than 4,000 exotic plants with the world’s tallest flower standing up to eight feet tall and weighing as much as 170 pounds.

The distinctive scenery around the Kerinci Seblat National Park supports spectacular wildlife such as Sumatran rhinos, Sumatran elephants, and the Sumatran tiger in addition to clouded leopards and the endangered Malayan sun bear. The park does not host orangutans but the jungle and mountainous terrain offer a supportive ecosystem and rare sightings of the orange pendek, a mysterious bipedal primate covered in short fur and reaching upwards of 60 inches in height. The landscape covers approximately 5,400 square miles and often attracts visitors interested in the marvelous scenery, conservation, and mountain climbing.

6. Way Kambas National Park
A tranquil Sumatran elephant family 

The unique scenery of Way Kambas National Park along the southwest coast of Sumatra offers a sanctuary for the Sumatran elephant and Sumatran rhinoceros with visitors from around the world coming to view the stunning wildlife in their natural habitat. The borders of the preserved landscape encompass estuaries, marshes, and open grasslands as well as corners of the lush rainforest possessing active tiger and boar populations in addition to marvelous birdwatching possibilities that feature kingfishers, pelicans, and wooly-necked storks. One of the unique features of the park includes how the rare and endangered mammals learn how to patrol the park boundaries instead of venturing outside the protected areas designed for their own protection. Whether traveling through the mangrove forest or wandering the freshwater trees visible from the coastline, exploring the dynamic ecosystems of Way Kambas National Park provides better insight into many of the endangered species of Indonesia and reflects the enchanting natural grandeur of the archipelago.

7. Ujung Kulon National Park

A tough-skinned Javan rhinoceros

The magnificent scenery of Ujung Kulon National Park dates back to the massive explosion of Krakatoa volcano, which destroyed numerous villages while also adding unique properties that preserve the vibrant and diverse wildlife of Java island. The park comprises a large portion of Java’s westernmost point as well as other small islands located within the area. The conserved landscape allows visitors to connect with the endangered species of plants and animals where you can hear the calls of the silvery gibbon in the trees or witness the iconic one-horned rhinoceros grazing on the brush, in addition to views of the Java mouse-deer venturing around the 260-square miles of protected area.

With fewer than 70 one-horned rhinoceros in the wild, visiting Ujung Kulon National Park immerses you in the possibilities of wildlife and scenery that this natural habitat can provide. Observe the charming characteristics of the rhino as well as other animals such as black panthers, green turtles, and boisterous hornbills, where you can discover the sensational wilderness from lowland rainforest to the wetlands in search of leopards and leaf monkeys, resting crocodiles or rare wild oxen.